News State New South Wales Professor investigated for racial slurs

Professor investigated for racial slurs

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The University of Sydney says it is “deeply disturbed” by a series of emails sent by one of its professors that include derogatory references to Aboriginal and Asian people as well as women.

The “offensive emails” were sent by poetry professor Barry Spurr, who recently contributed to a review of the national curriculum.

Professor Spurr has described Tony Abbott as an “Abo lover”, called Nelson Mandela a “darkie” and refers to women as “whores” in the emails published by website New Matilda on Thursday.

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“One day the Western world will wake up, when the Mussies and the chinky-poos have taken over,” he wrote.

A Sydney University spokeswoman said an investigation was underway.

“The University takes the allegations very seriously … Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated,” a spokeswoman said.

The professor was part of a review into the national curriculum that argued indigenous literature was too prominent.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne released the review’s findings on Sunday.

But Mr Pyne’s spokesman said his office had no input in the selection of Professor Spurr for the curriculum review.

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Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Photo: AAP

The academic was one of 15 subject experts commissioned by the independent review and the appointment was not made by the government.

“Professor Spurr’s alleged private emails are a matter for him,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The minister utterly rejects and finds repugnant the denigration of any minority on the basis of their sex, race, sexual orientation or beliefs.”

Professor Spurr defended his emails to New Matilda, saying they were intended to mock the “very extreme language” used.

“The comments that you refer to are largely to one recipient with whom I have had a whimsical linguistic game for many years of trying to outdo one another in extreme statements,” he said.

“These statements are not reflections of my views or his.”

The suggestion to reduce the role of indigenous studies in the curriculum was his “professional view” and not influenced by the “linguistic play” in these emails, Professor Spurr said.

Labor’s education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said the professor should step away from deciding what is taught in classrooms.

“His racist rants and mockery of sexual assault victims are utterly sickening,” Ms Ellis said.

The emails were sent to around a dozen people, including senior academics and officials with Sydney University between September 2012 and late 2014, according to New Matilda.

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